Writer: Margaret Blanchard
For many city officials across Georgia, training through the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government is critical not only for learning new skills but for making sure their government is on the right track.
That’s how Liz Ordiales described her experience at the recent 2022 Cities United Summit. As mayor of Hiawassee, she must wear many hats to keep things moving in the small, rural North Georgia city. She currently serves as city manager and handles human resources in addition to her elected role. Attending human resources training with Institute of Government faculty and staff confirmed that the steps and process she has in place are solid.
“Most larger cities have personnel dedicated to human resources, so hearing from a professional in this area is of utmost importance,” Ordiales explained. “The training allows elected officials and staff to implement best practices and make sound decisions.”
She also noted the importance of professional development for public officials.
“Government guidelines and standards are very different from corporate or private company operations. This difference must be learned, understood and implemented,” Ordiales said. “Knowledge is power, and the benefit of these courses is essential in obtaining that knowledge.”
Ordiales was one of nearly 700 city officials from across the state who participated in the annual conference to enhance their leadership skills and earn recognition for their commitment to professional development. Hosted by the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) in partnership with the Institute of Government, the event was held in late January in Atlanta.
As in the past, the Cities United Summit brought together mayors, council members, city staff and other officials to attend classes delivered by institute faculty and other experts in the field. Critical topics such as ethics, information security and emergency management were covered. Classes were offered through the Harold F. Holtz Municipal Training Institute, a continuing education program developed through a partnership between the Institute of Government and GMA.
Participants also received state government updates at the Capitol Connection Breakfast, and 125 municipal officials were recognized with certificates at the awards luncheon.
Institute faculty taught classes in subjects ranging from municipal annexation and conflict resolution to emerging technology and workforce development.
“Cities United is a great opportunity for institute faculty and staff to share their expertise and insight with our longstanding partners at GMA,” said Mara Shaw, associate director of governmental training and education for the institute. “Each hour a participant chooses to spend in certificate training shows a commitment to excellence in government that is integral to our mission.”
Conference training also provides ample opportunities to brainstorm with colleagues. Walt McBride, interim leadership development unit manager and director of the Georgia Certified Public Manager program, facilitated sessions focused on the exercise of leadership and effective policy-making.
“It was great to be back in person again,” he said. “There were lively conversations around the important work of mayors, elected officials and administrative staff, and how they can utilize leadership effectively to bring about tangible results.”